Why spam is annoying but malware is frightening

Spam and malware from the view of a marketing professional.

Why does spam have to be ugly?

When was the last time you received a really good looking, sophisticated, unsolicited email? Actually, I’d have to dig really deep in my spam folder in order to find an example of interesting, engaging or (haha) well designed spam content. You know, the kind of email you only unmasked as spam because you received the exact same message in all of your accounts that day, not only the one that you actually used to register somewhere like Facebook, Amazon or your online banking site.

To be honest, I have so many email accounts that sometimes I have to think twice to remember exactly which one was used to register where. Others may use their one and only email address for everything. In the end, we are all profitable targets it seems. Or are we? I mean, honestly, how many of you would be tempted to click on one of these beautiful call to actions?






Spam pays off

There are two possibilities here: either many of us follow the invitation and actually buy something, or, so little revenue is generated from these spam mailings that the spammer simply decides to increase the volume of spam they send. As a marketeer, I think it has to scale at some point, right? Let’s take a look at some statistics that were recently published by Eleven Research for the third quarter of 2013:



Trust your gut

As a side note, I’ve never really understood how some spam campaigns could ever have become successful in the first place. A few examples from everyday life:


The first thing an average intelligent person would do, is to call their bank (or send a tweet) and ask “What’s going on?”. Not to mention that receiving multiple emails with similar subject lines and senders within the space of a couple of hours, is hardly convincing at all.


Diet pills:

If you are really concerned about your weight, please stop ordering some placebo or maybe even harmful pills from some obviously untrustworthy source. Instead, get moving and take a walk or swim or whatever comes to mind. Or maybe consider changing your diet. If you took a walk around the house every time you felt like eating sweets or high fat snacks instead, how many kilometers would you be able to count in a week? As this is a highly controversial topic, I prefer to back it up a little with some findings of the World Health Organization on the influence of physical activities in our everyday life.



While it might be interesting to see a topless celebrity, I would rather not follow the invitation to check out a “hot babe” or the “huge manhood” of some stranger. There is youporn for those “urges”, guys and gals. And with the anonymous modes that are available in most browsers today, you won’t even leave many traces; while infecting your computer with some nasty trojan, on the other hand, could ruin your digital life completely.



Similar concerns to diet pills, but probably more efficient from a sales perspective, as lack of libido is still taboo amongst many people.


Replica watches:

If you want a cheap knock-off watch, go to the guy down the street. At least he won’t ask you for any of your personal information.


Random spam:

Who clicks on a headline that doesn’t make sense or speak to any inner desire at all, really?


We could continue on, ad infinitum. The fact is, that regardless of the type of product you buy online (pills, cars, spouses…) from a non-verifiable seller, you risk being scammed in the process. And if these offers are only half as poorly designed as my examples above, then please reconsider even opening them at all.

As a creative person and one that usually likes ads (comes with the job, I suppose), I would love to see these annoying spams become just a little more attractive or even interesting to read. Of course, that is never going to happen, as quantity overrules quality per definition of the word ‘spam’.

My wish for Christmas this year: Dear spammers out there, try to clean up your probably illegally obtained database every once in a while, so I won’t receive that same lovely spam multiple times a day to the same account. You have to realize that this really hurts your conversion rate, right? While on the other hand, removing duplicate email addresses takes only one line of code:

$ sort yourlist.txt | uniq >cleanedlist.txt

Maybe then I’d actually end up opening one of your messages that coincidentally slips past my spam filter in the future, because it wouldn’t obviously be the 12th copy within the mailing cue. But with spam filters getting more and more thorough as well, it is no surprise that at some point someone had the bright idea of trying something new: malware.

The frightening way: Malware

Let’s not send users ugly looking spam anymore, let’s just take their personal information and/or money directly. Good idea!

I was surprised to hear at a security conference this year, how little money is necessary to obtain your own handcrafted malware, distributed by a botnet with better customer service than any other industry could ever accomplish.

Malware also seems to be maturing. While some of you might still remember funny virus attacks skewing your screen display or rebooting your system every 10 minutes, today we are faced with truly sophisticated malware that continues to evolve at an amazing speed. If you take a look at recent statistics, you’ll see that this number continues to rise at a daunting rate every year. Here at Emsisoft alone, our malware analysts collect more than 200 000 malware samples every day!


My advice: Don’t take any chances with the security of your digital life. Just as you fasten your seat belt to protect yourself in the event of an accident, you should take precautions to guard your digital goods. Remember, it only takes one incident to destroy all your data, your digital footprint or your credibility. But it could take a life-time to rebuild your reputation.

Have a Great (Malware-Free) Day!

Author: Monika, Emsisoft Marketing Team